7 Oct 2009

Volunteers push ahead tsunami relief effort

12:30 pm on 7 October 2009

Hundreds of volunteers in the Pacific area struck by the recent earthquake and tsumani are pushing relief efforts ahead of expectations.

The confirmed death tolls from last week's tsunami stands now stand at 142 in Samoa, 32 in American Samoa and 9 in Tonga.

Eight people are still missing in Samoa.

Oxfam New Zealand says the response of volunteers to the situation in Samoa has meant efforts to provide water and shelter are making good progress.

Cherie McQuilkin reports.

"Three United Nations led teams are begining a two day assessment of medium and long-term reconstruction needs in Samoa today. Dave Neru, an Oxfam water and sanitation engineer, says each team is made of 6 experts from church groups, relief organisations and the Samoan government. And he says the immediate recovery is benefiting from the numbers of volunteers on the ground. 'Well I have met people that have come from New Zealand and Australia to help their families. We've got volunteers from all over Samoa, and of course from all around the world we have NGOs that have come in to Samoa to help.' Dave Neru says it's hoped temporary shelters and water distribution systems can be established within the month. Meanwhile, the Counties Manukau District Health Board in Auckland is co-ordinating New Zealand's civilian medical volunteers in the devastated areas of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. It says a team of 42 is already there, and more are arriving every day.The DHB's chief operating officer, Ron Dunham, says they have a wide range of expertise. 'Anaesthetists, general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, we have a number of nurses of different types, intensive care nurses, theatre nurses. We have also got general practitioners, wound management people, plastic surgeons, infectious disease people.' Ron Dunham says there are also up to 15 doctors and nurses who've travelled to volunteer in Samoa without going through the DHB's office. He says medical requirements are changing, with wound andinfection management becoming a greater need. The defence force says it has 102 people in the area, including 18 medics, 5 engineers and 6 divers who've been repiring water pipelines. Three Iroquois helicopters are helping to distribute aid and the HMSNZ Canterbury is on stand-by in New Zealand."